Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rain and A.J., Go Away; Hockey Disaster in Russia

The Yankees' 6-game winning streak came to an end yesterday afternoon at Yankee Stadium II, as the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles played through the rain.

Whose fault was it? Partly the weather. Partly starting pitcher A.J. Burnett. Partly the fielding. And partly the hitting, which got men on base late but couldn't get 'em home.

"Bad A.J." allowed 1 run in the 1st, another in the 2nd, and 2 in the 3rd. That's 4 runs, on 7 hits and 4 walks, in 6 innings. If he wants to save his place in the rotation, and appear in the postseason, he's not helping himself much.

On the other hand, the Yankees scored 2 in the 1st and 2 in the 4th to tie it. This despite Joe Girardi putting out a makeshift lineup, what with it being the much-despised phenomenon of a DGANG: Day Game After Night Game. First pitch was scheduled for less than 11 hours after the previous game ended. So, instead of the usual lineup, presuming everyone is healthy...

1. SS Derek Jeter
2. CF Curtis Granderson
3. 1B Mark Teixeira
4. 3B Alex Rodriguez
5. 2B Robinson Cano
6. RF Nick Swisher
7. C Russell Martin
8. DH Jorge Posada (if RH pitcher) or Andruw Jones (if LH)
9. LF Brett Gardner

We got a makeshift lineup:

1. SS Eduardo Nunez
2. C Russell Martin
3. RF Nick Swisher
4. 3B Alex Rodriguez
5. LF Andruw Jones
6. DH Jesus Montero
7. 1B Brandon Laird
8. CF Greg Golson
9. 2B Ramiro Pena

In other words, only A-Rod, Swisher and Martin were in their proper positions on the field, and only A-Rod was in his usual place in the batting order.

God only knows what Girardi would have done if this wasn't September, with the accompanying allows of rosters to be expanded from 25 players to 40.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to success was Nunez. He can't field. All you people out there saying Derek Jeter is no longer a good shortstop, shut your damn mouth. Even at age 37, he is Luis Aparicio compared to Nunez. It was Nunez' error -- his 2nd of the game -- that allowed the winning run to score in the top of the 11th.

Laird, whose usual position is 3rd base, also made an error that resulted in the O's 2nd inning run -- and then, himself, reached base on an error in the bottom of that inning, but didn't score. Nunez' error in the 5th did not lead to a run. Nor did Gardner's error in the 9th. That's right, the Yankees made 4 errors. The Orioles made 2.

The real problem was men left on base. To wit:

1st: After doubling home a run, A-Rod was stranded on 2nd as Jones grounded out and Montero struck out swinging.

4th: After Montero somewhat redeemed himself (Jesus redeeming himself?) with an RBI single, he was erased when Laird grounded into a double play. Golson singled, but Pena, versatile as he is he can't hit a lick, grounded into a forceout to end the inning.

6th: After Montero got to 2nd as the result of an error, Girardi sent Teixeira up to pinch-hit for Laird. With a big hitter up and 1st base open with 2 outs, Teix was intentionally walked to set up a force play. Cano was sent up to pinch-hit for Golson. 1st and 2nd, Cano up, nice little 2-out rally? No such luck: Robbie whiffed.

7th: Granderson doubled. Nunez sacrificed him to 3rd. Go-ahead run on 3rd, 1 out. Looks good, right? Nope: Martin struck out swinging, and Swish grounded out.

9th: Teix led off with a single. There you go: Winning run on 1st, nobody out. Except Cano took a called 3rd strike, Grandy popped up, and the useless Nunez grounded into a force. Extra innings.

10th: Martin led off with a single. There you go: Winning run on 1st, nobody out. Except Swish grounded into a force, A-Rod struck out swinging, and Gardner grounded out.

11th: After the O's took the lead in the top half, thanks to an error that messed up reliever Hector Noesi, an intentional walk to set up a force, and a Noesi wild pitch, Montero led off the inning with a walk. There you go: Tying run on 1st (the much speedier Chris Dickerson running for Montero), winning run at the plate, nobody out. Except Teix hit a line shot right at Oriole right fielder Nolan Reimold (who'd homered earlier), and Cano flew out. Grandy singled Dickerson from 1st to 3rd, so tying run on 3rd and winning run on 1st, but 2 out. NOW Girardi replaces Nunez, sending Eric Chavez up to pinch-hit. Chavez lines out to end it.

Orioles 5, Yankees 4. WP: Pedro Strop (1-1). SV: Jim Johnson (3). LP: Noesi (2-1), though it was only slightly his fault (the wild pitch).

Aside from A.J. and Noesi, the pitching was all right: Between them, Aaron Laffey, Luis Ayala, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano pitched 3 scoreless innings, and Noesi made it 4, until the fateful 11th.

The Yanks could only take 2 out of 3 against the O's. But it could be 3 out of 4, as today the same teams play again, only this time in Baltimore, to make up one of the last remaining rainout from last weekend's Hurricane Irene, as the remnants of Hurricane Lee are still threatening to soak the New York Tri-State Area, but Camden Yards should be dry. Ivan Nova starts against Alfredo Simon. Game time is 1:05.

And yesterday wasn't a total, ahem, washout, as the Red Sox lost, thus reducing the Yankees' Magic Number.

Jeter hits 3068 DONE
Rivera saves 598 4
A-Rod homers 628 135
A-Rod hits 2769 231
Magic Number 19 (to eliminate Scum for Division, 12 to eliminate Rays and clinch at least Wild Card, 4 to eliminate Jays, O's done)

Later today, I'll have something to say about the start of the new NFL season tonight.


There was sad news in sports, and in life, yesterday. Lokomotiv Yaroslav, a member of the Kontinetal Hockey League, a league that stands as the top level of ice hockey in the countries that once made up the Soviet Union, was flying to Minsk, Belarus to begin its 2011-12 season. All the players from the main roster, and 4 from the youth team, were on board their plane.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, just outside their home city of Yaroslav, on the Volga River. Of the 45 people on board, 43 died at the site. Two have survived.

(UPDATE: Left wing Alexander Galimov, who'd spent his whole career with Lokomotiv, died in the hospital 5 days later, at the age of 26. Only Alexander Sizov, the avionics flight engineer, survived.)

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team photo, taken just days before the crash.
As in Greek, in the Cyrillic alphabet used in many Slavic-language countries,
the letter L is written as the Greek letter Lambda.
Many teams named Lokomotiv, mostly formerly connected to the railroad industry,
including famous soccer team Lokomotiv Moscow,
use the Lambda symbol with an old-style steam locomotive as a logo.

René Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation,has  called the crash "the darkest day in the history of our sport." It's hard to argue that there's a darker one: Plane crashes have claimed entire sports teams before, but this is the largest death toll for a major league team in any sport.

Some of the victims are likely to be familiar to North American fans. Brad McCrimmon was an NHL defenseman from 1979 to 1997, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals with the 1985 and '87 Philadelphia Flyers, and winning the Cup with the 1989 Calgary Flames. He was Lokomotiv's head coach, and was 52 years old.

Pavol Demitra was a 3-time NHL All-Star, winner of the 2000 Lady Byng Trophy, and the leading scorer at the 2010 Winter Olympics, representing Slovakia. He scored 304 goals in his NHL career, and is the 5th-leading scorer in St. Louis Blues history. He was 36.

Ruslan Salei was a defenseman from Belarus, who played for the Anaheim Ducks against the Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, and last played in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings. He had yet to play for Lokomotiv, but had previously starred in his homeland for Tivali Minsk. He was 36.

Karel Rachůnek, a Czech defeseman, was Lokomotiv's captain. He played for the Rangers in the 2003-04 and 2006-07 seasons, and for the Devils in 2007-08. He was 32. Alexander Vasyunov, a left wing, had also played for the Devils, playing 18 games in the 2010-11 season, scoring 1 goal. He was just 23.

Here is the list of the dead.

·         Vitaly Anikeyenko, Ukrainian-Russian hockey player (b. 1987)
·         Mikhail Balandin, Russian hockey player (b. 1980)
·         Gennady Churilov, Russian hockey player (b. 1987)
·         Pavol Demitra, Slovakian hockey player (b. 1974)
·         Robert Dietrich, Kazakhstani-German hockey player (b. 1986)
·         Marat Kalimulin, Russian hockey player (b. 1988)
·         Alexander Kalyanin, Russian hockey player (b. 1987)
·         Alexander Karpovtsev, Russian hockey player (b. 1970)
·         Andrei Kiryukhin, Russian hockey player (b. 1987)
·         Nikita Klyukin, Russian hockey player (b. 1989)
·         Igor Korolev, Russian hockey player (b. 1970)
·         Stefan Liv, Polish-born Swedish hockey player (b. 1980)
·         Jan Marek, Czech hockey player (b. 1979)
·         Brad McCrimmon, Canadian hockey player (b. 1959)
·         Sergei Ostapchuk, Belarusian hockey player (b. 1990)
·         Karel Rachůnek, Czech hockey player (b. 1979)
·         Ruslan Salei, Belarusian hockey player (b. 1974)
·         Maxim Shuvalov, Russian hockey player (b. 1993)
·         Kārlis Skrastiņš, Latvian hockey player (b. 1974)
·         Pavel Snurnitsyn, Russian hockey player (b. 1992)
·         Daniil Sobchenko, Ukrainian-Russian hockey player (b. 1991)
·         Ivan Tkachenko, Russian hockey player (b. 1979)
·         Pavel Trakhanov, Russian hockey player (b. 1978)
·         Yuri Urychev, Russian hockey player (b. 1991)
·         Josef Vašíček, Czech hockey player (b. 1980)
·         Alexander Vasyunov, Russian hockey player (b. 1988)
·         Alexander Vyukhin, Ukrainian-Russian hockey player (b. 1973)

·         Artem Yarchuk, Russian hockey player (b. 1990)

(UPDATE: Because of the tragedy, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl chose to cancel their participation in the 2011-12 KHL season, instead playing in Russia's 2nd-ranked league. The KHL suspended play for 5 days.) 

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